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Top 10 Southeast Division free agents

by Mike G. Morreale

The most touted unrestricted free agent available from the Southeast Division could be right wing Alexander Semin of the Washington Capitals.

Semin will obviously command big money, despite the fact the Caps had been able to entice him into signing consecutive one-year deals to remain in Washington. The team might not be as quick to keep the 28-year-old forward this time -- he signed for $6 million midway through the 2009-10 season and for $6.7 million last January.


Free agency previews (by division)

With free agency opening Sunday at noon ET, takes a look at the needs of all 30 teams -- division by division -- as well as the Top 10 free agents in each division:
The New York Rangers could be one of a few teams interested in Semin if the Capitals are willing to part with the 13th selection in the 2002 NHL Draft.

In addition to Semin, expect Florida Panthers defenseman and power-play specialist Jason Garrison to field several offers. The 27-year-old, who completed his third NHL season, struck for nine power-play goals in 2011-12.

Here is a breakdown of the top 10 unrestricted free agents residing in the Southeast:

Jason Garrison, Florida

The highly coveted defenseman had a breakout season for the Panthers while quarterbacking the club's power play. The blueliner established career highs in goals (16), assists (17), and plus-minus rating (plus-6) in the regular season, helping lead the team to the division title and its first playoff appearance in 11 seasons. Garrison might be the best of the defensive corps in the Southeast and can expect to earn a lot more than the $675,000 he was paid in 2011-12.

Kyle Wellwood, Winnipeg

The 29-year-old forward, who plays wing and center, is regarded as a solid playmaker more suited for a bottom-six role. It's likely he'll re-sign with the Jets after scoring a career-high 47 points, including 29 assists, and sporting a plus-3 rating. The 5-foot-10, 181-pound player rebounded nicely after signing with Winnipeg last September -- he had five goals and 13 points in 35 games with San Jose in 2010-11.

Alexander Semin, Washington

The Russian, who spent time on a line with Brooks Laich and Jason Chimera in the playoffs, has 30-goal, 70-point potential if given more ice time and an increased role. His career with the Caps has been plagued by injury and inconsistency, but he did appear in 77 games in 2011-12, marking the second time in his career he missed no more than five regular-season matches. He scored seven goals over the opening 30 games of the season, leading to his lackluster 20-goal total, his lowest since his rookie year when he played 52 games. Though some may consider Semin a defensive liability, he did finish tied with Laich for the team lead with 52 takeaways.

Bryan Allen, Carolina

Bryan Allen had 14 points last season, but led the Hurricanes with 188 blocked shots and was seventh with 111 hits. (Photo: Getty Images)

The 31-year-old is the prototypical big, physical force along the blue line who rarely gives an inch when the opposition enters the neutral zone. Though he didn't get much playing time on the power play in Carolina, he's the type of reliable player who can provide a solid 18-20 minutes per game. He had 14 points last season, but led the Hurricanes with 188 blocked shots and was seventh with 111 hits.

Chris Mason, Winnipeg

Despite the fact the 36-year-old goalie is no longer considered a starter, he could certainly earn time as a serviceable backup. He wasn't used very often in the second half of the Jets' season, starting five times after Game 50 -- he finished 8-7-1 with a 2.50 goals-against average and .898 save percentage. If Winnipeg signs Jonas Gustavsson, one would expect the tandem of Ondrej Pavelec and Gustavsson to share the crease in 2012-13.

Jonas Gustavsson, Winnipeg

The rights to the 6-foot-2, 192-pound goalie, nicknamed "The Monster," were dealt to the Jets by the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, but agent Joe Resnick isn't sure his client is actually in Winnipeg's plans. The guess here is that the Jets sign him to serve as the backup to Pavelec. The 27-year-old Swede has spent the past three seasons with the Leafs, posting a 39-45-15 ledger with a 2.98 GAA and .900 save percentage.

Scott Clemmensen, Florida

Clemmensen's days in Florida might not be numbered if 22-year-old goalie prospect Jacob Markstrom begins the season in the American Hockey League. Clemmensen would certainly be a better-than-average backup for a contending team. In 25 starts this past season, the 34-year-old went 14-6-6 with a 2.57 GAA and .913 save percentage. His cap hit shouldn't exceed $2 million, so he might be worth the gamble for a team in need. The fact Clemmensen has yet to respond to Florida's most recent one-year offer gives the impression he's willing to explore his worth on the open market.

Jaroslav Spacek
Jaroslav Spacek
Defense - CAR
Goals: 5 | Assists: 7 | Pts: 12
Shots: 37 | +/-: +4
Jaroslav Spacek, Carolina

Spacek was the seventh-highest defenseman in total ice time during the 2011-12 season, but he also earned $3.8 million. The 38-year-old probably doesn't have much left, but he does have the experience of 880 games under his belt. Spacek was a tremendous role model for youngsters Jamie McBain and Justin Faulk, who usually ended up paired with him along the blue line in Carolina. He could land with a team looking for a mentor who's capable of solid, if unspectacular, play.

Mikael Samuelsson, Florida

Panthers coach Kevin Dineen has made it clear he would like the organization to re-sign the 35-year-old right wing. He was a key cog for the Florida power play and on a productive second line with Marcel Goc and Sean Bergenheim. He's coming off an injury-shortened season when he scored 14 goals and 31 points in 54 games. If he can stay healthy in 2012-13, Samuelsson has the potential to produce 50-plus points.

Mike Knuble, Washington

Knuble, who turns 40 on July 4, suited up for 72 games with Washington this past campaign and produced six goals and 12 assists in a reduced role. The winger had a streak of eight straight seasons of 20-plus goals come to an end, likely due to a midseason coaching change. In his prime, Knuble was that solid power forward capable of generating plenty around the goal cage. He won't be re-signed by Washington but he might still have one good season left.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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